Secret Leaders
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Secret Leaders features interviews with key figures from the UK tech and creative ecosystem. From entrepreneurs (both early and latter stage), to journalists, VCs - and even royalty - the series profiles those who have helped shape the nation's culture of innovation and growth.

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    S02E15: Jo Malone: The Alchemist Devoted to Spreading the Poetry of Scent

    Our last guest this season is unanimously appreciated by everyone she meets. Meet Jo Malone, here to talk to us in depth about her journey and her love for the poetry of fragrances.

    • Growing up in a council house and looking after her mother and her sister
    • Moving to London and doing all sorts of odd jobs
    • Putting her astounding sense of smell into an actual business
    • Receiving an offer to sell to Estée Lauder
    • Facing the greatest challenge of her life and moving on
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    S02E14 Vijay Eswaran: From Taxi Driver to Billionaire

    Our guest has a truly remarkable list of accomplishments that would have turned many of us into vain, condescending creatures. Meet Vijay Eswaran, the founder of the QI Group, a deeply compassionate and thoughtful entrepreneur who steered clear of all that.

    Losing his scholarship and being sent to the UK Taking a year off in order to hitchhike around Europe Going through 33 days of silence in an Italian monastery Building the QI Group Giving back and living in the now

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    S02E13 JustGiving: Anne-Marie Huby, Always Guided by a Deep Sense of Purpose

    Our guest today knows all about having the deep sense of satisfaction you get when you do really meaningful work. We had the pleasure of interviewing Anne-Marie Huby, the co-founder of JustGiving.

    Meeting Zarine Kharas and creating a sustainable business model For-profit vs not-for-profit charities Their unusual first pitch and fundraising story Taking a break, reconnecting with what’s important for her, and reading voraciously Corporate responsibility in modern times

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    S02E12 Rankin: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes

    Today’s guest is celebrity photographer Rankin, here to share his innermost thoughts on photography and life itself.

    From Glasgow to Yorkshire to St Albans: his childhood and finding his way Meeting Jefferson Hack and creating Dazed & Confused Always wanting to give something back What he thinks about the MeToo movement Who he would like to photograph next His attraction to serendipity His fascination with Trump and his love of photographing baddies

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    S02E11 Planet Organic: How Founder Renée Elliott Wove Together Love and Food

    Our guest this week takes life and food seriously. Meet Renée Elliott, the founder of Planet Organic, a principled, thoughtful, and always kind entrepreneur, here to offer some valuable life lessons and sound business advice.

    The journey of Planet Organic The investor nightmare Co-founder trouble and starting to work with her husband Living the life in Tuscany for three years Co-creating a business and life-skills academy for women

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    S02E10 Shazam: How Dhiraj Mukherjee Built One of the Most Downloaded Apps of All Time

    Our guest this week is Dhiraj Mukerjee, one of the co-founders of Shazam, the terrifyingly popular app that has been downloaded over one billion times. Join us to hear the story of how Dhiraj and his three colleagues grew Shazam from just the idea to its dazzling magnitude today.

    Building Shazam and getting people to use it Getting a lot of nos from investors Disguising the product so that someone else didn’t steal their idea What the future looks like, if you ask Dhiraj

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    S2E09 Babylon Health: How Founder and CEO Dr Ali Parsa Plans to Make Healthcare a Utility for Every Human on Earth

    Our guest this week is the founder of Babylon Health: Ali Parsa. What Ali chose to do is nothing short of noble: trying to make healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone. Tune in to hear the lessons and advice of a very ambitious and opinionated human being.

    Coming to the UK as a refugee and steering clear of negativity Building Circle and, later on, Babylon Thinking big, acting big, staying human

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    S2E08 How Alex Depledge Co-Founded a Company that Sold for €32 Million

    Our guest this week is a feisty, joyous force of nature. Alex Depledge shares some serious wisdom on how, together with her co-founders, she ambitiously built and grew (+ we cover many more topics). Join us for a refreshing, feminist episode.

    Her journey from I-don’t-know-anything-about-startup-entrepreneurship to building the right product at the right time What was raising money like in a period when there wasn’t a startup ecosystem Finding an executive coach and surviving Brexit

    Full show notes at

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    S2E07 Charles Tyrwhitt: How Founder Nicholas Wheeler Went From an Aston Martin to Global Domination

    Our guest this week is a man who enjoys taking high-achieving to new levels every morning while eating breakfast. Meet Nick Wheeler, the founder of Charles Tyrwhitt, the shirt company on a mission to make it easy for men to dress well.

    Nick’s previous ventures and how he started and grew Charles Tyrwhitt Nick’s infatuation for learning from mistakes, over and over and over again The do’s and don’ts of hiring when you’re a small company His advice to entrepreneurs worldwide

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    S2E06 Not On The Highstreet Co-Founder Holly Tucker

    Our guest this week is the lovely co-founder of, Holly Tucker (previously known as “Hurricane Holly”). Join us for an hour of inspiration, as Holly shares her secrets for balancing family, happiness, and business, as well as her journey towards finding her ikigai.

    Creating together with Sophie Cornish at their respective kitchen tables Why Holly advises entrepreneurs to trust their internal compasses

    Full show notes:

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    S2E05 ustwo Co-Founder Mills on Building a Fampany (aka Family Company)

    Our leader du jour is Mills, aka Matt Miller, co-founder of ustwo, an international digital product and service studio. Mills tells us all about how they created ustwo and developed an App Store App of the Year, and why they will never ever sell their fampany (for those of you late to the table, that’s a family company).

    The story of how ustwo was formed How they created a global smash hit mobile game What’s next for ustwo and for Mills

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    S2E03 Co-Founder of Songkick: Pete Finlay on Burnout and Growing Too Fast

    What are the ingredients needed for a successful startup adventure? Pete Finlay, formerly Pete Smith, co-founder of Songkick and Silicon Milkroundabout, has a few pieces of advice for first-time founders that could make all the difference in the world.

    • Songkick’s birth, infancy and later years
    • What made Songkick different from other online concert discovery tools
    • Pete’s experience with burnout and his advice to first-time founders

    Full show notes:

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    S2E02 Gail Gallie, Co-Founder of Project Everyone: Reaching 7 billion people in 7 days

    How do you go about creating a better tomorrow? Project Everyone co-founder Gail Gallie thinks that we should all get involved. It starts with something small, and then expands into something great.

    Working as a producer for Radio 1 The challenges of being the CEO of an ad agency Driving awareness towards a sustainable future

    Links: Project Everyone The Sustainable Development Goals

    Full show notes:

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    S2E01 Just Eat: How David Buttress Co-Founded and Built a £5.5bn Company

    What does a successful startup need? Two friends with a vision, a huge amount of hard work, and a basement. Just Eat former CEO David Buttress shares his journey.

    • The Just Eat journey: how two colleagues working in a basement created an empire with a valuation of £5.5 billion
    • Their story with getting funded
    • What made Just Eat stand out from other food delivery services

    Full show notes:

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    S1E15 Simon Cook -- Draper Esprit

    Today’s special guest is one of the key Venture Capital investors in the UK, the CEO and Founder of Draper Esprit, Mr Simon Cook. Most recently, Simon has focused on disrupting the traditional VC structure by taking his company public on an IPO that raised over £100m of ‘permanent capital’ as he calls it which he intends to use to grow the UK’s influence globally.

    He has been involved in some of the best known deals in the UK including LoveFilm, Graze and Trust Pilot.

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    S1E14 Sarah Wood -- Unruly

    Today we are joined by one of the best known, and certainly most liked entrepreneurs in the UK - Sarah Wood from Unruly Media. The tl;dr on Sarah is that she went to University of Cambridge, then became a lecturer at the University of Sussex, then she Co Founded Unruly, sold it for £114m to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp a few years later, and now teaches a course back at Cambridge whilst maintaining a role as CEO at the company she helped build. In this episode you'll find out what Unruly does, and how Cambridge University responded to her suggested classroom title she teaches entitled “ Mashups, memes and LOLitics, online video culture and the screen media revolution”

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    S1E13 Vincent Dignan -- Traffic & Copy

    Today’s guest is the self styled Jesus Christ Superstar of the organic viral growth world, Vincent Dignan. He puts the M in Millennial, the G in Growth and the WTF in Fashion. A man who very much practices what he preaches, and a true obsessive for the American personal branding school of thought - he knows that to stand out, you have to really stand out. And he does this to perfection.

    In his own words - his mission is to help as many founders and companies grow in the fastest way possible using bespoke techniques, tactics and software most people don’t know about. Whilst his over sharing and very un-British attitude towards self promotion doesn’t resonate with everyone - it’s categorically impossible to ignore Vincent once you’ve made contact, and underneath all the outfits and image is simply a guy interested to see how he can help others succeed with the knowledge he’s accumulated.

    From living off benefits to touring the West Coast inspiring young entrepreneurs and makers how to build an audience, Vincent’s life has gone from rags to riches in very little time, and should be viewed as an inspiration that anyone with a strong work ethic, positive attitude and most importantly, the self belief and confidence in what makes you unique and interesting is your pathway to success.

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    S1E12 Tamara Lohan MBE -- Mr & Mrs Smith

    Tamara Lohan MBE is the co-founder and CTO of Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels. She started Mr and Mrs Smith with her husband James 14 years ago, and has been at the heart of one of the best loved internet brands in Britain, but it in fact started as a publishing business; a guidebook for people like her who wanted to explore the luxury boutiques across the country and discovering the real gems and stylish weekends away in unique hotels. They sold 10,000 copies in their first 6 weeks, but fast forward to today they have over 100 staff spread across London, LA, Singapore, New York… and have had contributions from celebrities ranging from Stella McCartney to Cate Blanchett.

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    S1E11 Sir John Hegarty -- BBH

    Our guest this week is the advertising giant Sir John Hegarty. As the co-founder of ad agency BBH and creator of acclaimed campaigns for brands such as Levi’s, Audi, BA and Johnnie Walker, Hegarty has been a leader in the advertising industry for more than 50 years. In our interview with him he reveals some of his creative tricks (lose the headphones) and “when the world zigs, zag” – words which went on to become the BBH’s mantra.

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    S1E10 Alicia Navarro -- Skimlinks

    Our second Australian guest in a row for our 10th episode of Secret Lives of Leaders. This episode we have the pleasure of hosting Alicia Navarro - the co-founder and CEO of Skimlinks. Known for her energy and enthusiasm, Alicia has been in the heart of the tech scene in London for over a decade. Her company has gone through many highs and lows along the way as well as receiving over $20m in venture funding. Alicia gives us an insight into running starting and then running a high growth company as well as what she gets up to when she's not working.

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    S1E09 Daniel Priestley -- Bestselling Author & Entrepeneur (Key Person of Influence, 24 Assets, Oversubscribed)

    Our guest in episode 9 is the bestselling author Daniel Priestley. Hailing from Australia Daniel was already a success before he moved to Europe. He used writing as a way to get his thought process down while running his own business and along the way his books is what he is most well known for. His catalogue includes the titles “24 Assets”, “Oversubscribed” and “Key Person of Influence”.

    Along the way Daniel has built huge businesses, advised celebrated entrepreneurs, broken world records, raised millions in venture capital and fundraised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

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    S1E08 Reshma Sohoni -- Seedcamp

    Our guest this week is one of the best networked ladies in UK tech, as the Co Founder of not only the first ever, but also arguably the most successful Seed Fund in Europe, Seedcamp.

    By only part-selling their stake in their most successful investment, they’ve already returned their entire fund back, as the high profile FinTech unicorn Transferwise was originally developed before Reshma’s eyes and with her support and brainpower. With over 200 investments to her name, its not fair to focus only on their largest, as they’ve backed many really exciting winners, which she’ll be talking to us about in this episode.

    With her roots from India, teenage years in America, and an MBA in france, it’s Europe she’s chosen of the 3 continents to call home, and it’s fair to say she’s had a huge impact on the technology scene.

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    S1E07 Steve Bartlett -- Social Chain

    Our guest in this episode is probably responsible for the funny tweets you saw, or that ridiculously viral campaign that captured your imagination. At 24, he’s one of those guys who has already had the life experience of most 40 year olds, with offices in Manchester, Berlin and New York, plus spending a small stint living in San Francisco as an Entrepreneur in Residence advising Bebo for their relaunch, he’s accomplished a great deal in a short period of time and shows no signs of slowing down.

    At the age of 18, Steve Bartlett dropped out of school and embarked on his first business, Wallpark - a social media venture connecting students with similar interests around, essentially a digital social notice board. He then exited that business in 2013 and Co Founded the Social Chain, having met a young guy called Dom McGregor, who had a unique knack of creating multiple twitter accounts and growing the shit out of them, and from there they’ve been at the heart of a number of viral campaigns growing Social Chain to a multi million pound business counting Apple, McDonalds and BBC as some of their clients.

    Quite rightly, they’ve picked up a ton of PR along the way and Steve, presumably learning along the way from those he promotes, has increasingly been popping up in my facebook feed as an inspirational speaker with his own YouTube channel, therefore, in his own right, becoming a key person of influence.

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    S1E06 Michael Acton Smith -- Moshi Monsters, Mind Candy, Calm, Firebox

    Michael Acton Smith OBE is a man who's been described as the ‘tech version of Willy Wonka’. From setting up popular e-commerce websites with university friends to extravagant online games Michael Acton Smith has always had a drive as a maker. His biggest success, Moshi Monsters, grew to over 100 million registered users and expanded to over 150 countries around the world. It’s not all been plain sailing though. His businesses have come within days of missing payroll and after booming success Mind Candy has found it challenging reproducing it’s second hit. More recently our esteemed guest has focussed his attention on raising awareness and building businesses in the mental health space - an area very close to his heart with the meditation app - Calm.

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    S1E05 Jess Butcher -- Blippar

    Jess Butcher is the co-founder of Blippar - the augmented reality giant. Founded in 2011, Jess has over 250 colleagues and as of 2016 raised a total of $100m valuing the business at a reputed $1bn and it’s also reported that they turned down an acquisition of £1.5bn. Jess gives us an insight into the founding days of Blippar and also what it's like building a behemoth of a business while also raising a family.

    This episode of The Secret Lives of Leaders was recorded at Stockton House in front of a live audience at the Foundrs Unconference.

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    S1E03 Graham Hobson -- Photobox

    Graham Hobson is the Co Founder of Photobox, the digital printing powerhouse that employs 1,000+ people across Europe, and exited for a reported £400m+.But it wasn’t a simple journey - 16 years in the making, including 5 where they scaled back to 3 people, Graham shares the highs and lows of their tumultuous ride to eventual success. Before that - a life in the city, in banking’s glory years, where he saw every immoral act under the sun happen in the office before his eyes - he has lots of experience and insight to share through his career, and is well worth the listen!

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    S1E02 Alice Bentinck -- Entrepreneur First

    Alice started her career in McKinsey and on the day she was going to sign to start at google, got convinced by her business partner Matt to just start this with her instead, and though it was incredibly tough starting up - she’s never looked back.

    They recruit 100 technologists every 6 months, put them into teams, help them develop ideas - but unusually give money to people who might never have met before, who might not even have an idea, and get them to just start. More recently they raised a fresh £40m fund to invest into people, to turn them into companies.

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    S1E01 Nick Jenkins -- Moonpig

    Nick Jenkins is the founder of - the wildly successful personalised E card company that sold for £120m to photo printing giants, Photobox in 2011. More recently he’s been an avid angel investor which saw him becoming more of a household name every sunday night as a dragon on BBC1’s Dragon’s Den.

    As both his own seed investor, and a sole founder - he shares his unique journey from startup to exit, and we learn about his background, and indeed how he got started on the founder ladder.

    But it wasn’t all smooth sailing - like many, he’s failed along the way, and he also went all in with 100% of the money he’d made in his career.

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